Title: Administrative Records of the Conference of Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario
Series: 505/1 Records of the Manitoba Conference Branch of The Woman’s Missionary Society of The United Church of Canada.
Extent: 1m textual records and other material.
Finding Aid: The Finding Aid includes File Description and Box Lists.
The United Church Woman’s Missionary Society (WMS) was created in 1925 through an amalgamation of the Woman’s/Women’s Missionary Societies of the uniting churches. The Congregationalist, Methodist and Presbyterian Woman’s Missionary Societies had been created as an adjunct to the existing home and foreign missionary societies of these churches in order to take over aspects of the work which were thought to be particularly the province of women. This included the employment and support of women teachers for mission schools and female medical workers, the staffing, support and supervision of institutions such as orphanages, school homes, residential schools and social service homes and other such mission work as was predominately carried on among women and children. It was believed that this would free the general missionary societies to concentrate on the more important work of evangelisation and preaching the gospel. The first WMS in Manitoba was an auxiliary of the Presbyterian Women’s Foreign Missionary Society formed in Winnipeg in 1884. A Methodist Woman’s Missionary Society auxiliary was formed soon after in 1888.
The local (congregational) branches of the Presbyterian and Methodist WMS were organised as auxiliaries. The auxiliaries of the Manitoba Synod of the Presbyterian WMS was organised into ‘presbyterials’ in 1925 and this system of organisation was carried on by the United Church WMS. At union, 276 Manitoba Auxiliaries were organised into the eight presbyterials of Birtle, Brandon, Carman, Dauphin, Portage la Prairie, Rock Lake, Superior and Winnipeg with administrative boundaries roughly corresponding to the presbyteries of the same names. Delegates from the eight newly constituted presbyterials met on 1 June 1926, to inaugurate the Manitoba Conference Branch of the Woman’s Missionary Society of The United Church of Canada. Officers appointed included the President, four Vice-Presidents, the Recording Secretary, the Corresponding Secretary and Treasurer. Also appointed were Secretaries of Christian Stewardship & Finance, Strangers, Associate Helpers and Young Women’s Auxiliaries as well as Mission and Baby Bands. A Mission Circle was any group of teen-aged girls in sympathy with the aim and objects of the WMS. A Mission or Baby Band was any group of children organised under a superintendent for the purpose of developing a missionary spirit. Other Secretaries appointed were CGIT, Social Service (the forerunner of Temperance and Christian Citizenship), Supplies and Literature, Missionary Monthly, and Literature Depot. Nominating and Resolution Committees were appointed from the floor of the meeting and a Constitution and By-laws were considered. This administrative structure was essentially the same throughout the life of the Manitoba Conference Branch of the United Church WMS.
Not all the institutions operated by the Woman’s Missionary Societies of the uniting churches in the Conference came with them into union. A Presbyterian hospital and school home in Sifton and the Cecelia Jeffries Residential School remained under the control of the Presbyterian Church after 1925. In Manitoba, institutions operated by the United Church WMS included hospitals and dispensaries at Teulon (opened in 1904); Ethelbert (1915-ca.1957); Pine River (1920-1946); and Eriksdale (1926-ca.1959). The Teulon School Home, at first accommodating boys only, was opened in 1912 and a girl’s residence was added in 1918. A residential school at Portage la Prairie was opened in 1886 by the Portage la Prairie Auxiliary of the Presbyterian WFMS. A school home was a boarding establishment where boys and girls of school age could live while attending public schools. The children came from farm families in remote areas where there was no access to schools. Children were usually attending secondary school, however, in the early years elementary school pupils were also accommodated. In later years, the surviving school home at Teulon provided boarding accommodation for secondary students from remote reserve communities attending Teulon Collegiate. This was different from other residential schools where students boarded and attended classes at the same institution. The Portage la Prairie Indian School eventually evolved into a residence for First Nations Students attending high school in Portage la Prairie.
As well, many women were recruited and supported by the Manitoba Conference Branch of the WMS for mission work overseas in Japan, China and Africa as well as in Canada. For instance, Conference Branch WMS appointed and supported a worker among First Nations women and girls in Winnipeg. Conference Branch WMS also sent representatives to ecumenical organisations. For instance, in 1949 the President of the Conference Branch WMS served on the Provincial Council of Women. From the very earliest days, the Conference Branch WMS also operated a literature depot that made mission education materials available to Conference WMS and CGIT groups. In 1957, it was decided to transfer the assets of the WMS Literature Depots to the new Board of Information and Stewardship. In Manitoba Conference this was the Conference Committee on Information and Stewardship. A library of 100 books was presented to the Prairie Christian Training Centre. When United Church mission work was rationalised in 1962, institutions previously operated by the United Church WMS were transferred to the supervision of the Board of Home Missions. The last annual report of the Conference Branch of WMS was presented to the Conference Annual Meeting in 1962. After this date the sole women’s group in the church became the United Church Women.
Scope and Content
The custodial history of many of these records is obscure. Many of these items were likely collected together by the WMS as part of archives and history projects. A number of WMS annual reports and pamphlets were accessioned as part of a larger collection of materials pertaining to United Church women’s organisations brought to the Archives in 1988 by Diaconal Minister Laura (Sharpe) Long, a long-time member of various Manitoba Conference women’s groups. The 2006 accession came to the archives as a part of a transfer of records from the Conference office.
Records of the Conference Branch WMS described as part of this series include Minutes of the Manitoba Conference Branch Woman’s Missionary Society Executive, 1917-1959; Annual meeting materials, 1927-1961; Minutes of the Manitoba Conference Branch Advisory Committee, 1934-1946; records of the Committee on Housing for Girls of Indian Descent, 1953; the Memorial [from Winnipeg Presbyterial re: religious broadcasting], 1955; materials pertaining to the Commission on the Work of Women in the Church, 1959-1961; the Annual Statistical Report, 1961; records on the Integration of Home Missions Work, 1961-1962; Books and pamphlets, [195-]; and a Methodist/ United Church WMS Cash Book , 1918 – 1926.
Twenty-two Annual Reports of the Woman’s Missionary Society of The United Church of Canada dating from 1946/47 to 1961 and accessioned along with the Laura Long materials have been housed with the Conference Archives Annual Report Collection.
Related Records in this Repository
For records of the hospitals and nursing stations operated by the Conference Branch WMS, please see the series ‘509/4 Records of Conference Hospitals’
For records of the Portage la Prairie Indian Residential School see the series ‘509/2 Records of the Superintendents of Home Missions’
Relevant items in this series related to Indian Residential Schools are included in the United Church of Canada Archives Winnipeg 2014 Index of IRS Related Records and were digitized for submission to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Contact the Archivist for more information.